Mental illness is very common, affecting as many as one in every five people. You may have always thought of it as something that happened to other people or other families, but at some point, you may realize that a member of your own family is acting in concerning or disruptive ways that may indicate mental health concerns.
When a loved one begins showing signs of mental illness, it’s not unusual for other members of the family to try to ignore these signs or make excuses for them. You may want to believe these symptoms will simply go away. Realizing that a loved one is mentally ill can trigger a wide range of emotions, from fear to anger to shame. It’s important to be aware that you’re not alone, and that mental illness is a treatable condition.
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Recognizing Signs of Mental Illness
Mental illness is a brain-based condition that can affect behaviors, emotions, and thinking. When ongoing symptoms cause problems in day-to-day living and affect your loved one’s ability to function in relationships or at work or school, they may have a mental health disorder.
There are many symptoms of mental illness. Some signs and symptoms include:
- Extreme mood swings ranging to very high to very low moods
- Withdrawing from friends or social activities
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Confused thinking
- Prolonged sadness
- Excessive worry or fear
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Extreme anger or violent behavior
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
- Growing inability to cope with daily life
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
Helping Your Loved One to Get Treatment for Mental Health Concerns
If you think a family member may have a mental illness, it’s a good idea to try to have a conversation about it and to offer support and compassion. Let them know you’re worried and reassure them that you care about them and that there’s help available.
You won’t be able to force a loved one to get help, but letting them know you want to be supportive opens the door to communication. Speak in a straightforward, nonjudgmental manner. Ask how you can help, and see if they would like for you to set up an appointment for an evaluation or for you to accompany them to the appointment.
In some cases, your loved one will try to deny there’s a problem. Listen to what they have to say and avoid trying to force them to change their mind. Continue to learn as much as you can about mental illness and ask how you can help. If your loved one is threatening suicide or has done self-harm, seek help immediately from a crisis center or by calling 911.
Taking Care of Yourself
Mental illness can affect every member of the family. Your loved one’s moods or actions may be unpredictable. They may refuse to cooperate with the recommended treatment plan. They may deny that medication is needed. Finding an effective treatment plan may take some time. It’s important not to give up when healing doesn’t happen as fast as you want it to.
A supportive family can make a big difference to a mentally ill person. Knowing you’re there to listen or to offer rides to appointments can help them to know they’re not alone and that you care.
Be supportive in any way you can, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. You can’t fix all your loved one’s problems, and you can’t force them to recover if they don’t want to. Getting therapy or attending support groups to help you process your own feelings of frustration, anger or fatigue is an important part of your ability to help a family member who is mentally ill.
If you or a loved one are struggling with symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, or substance abuse, please call us at (310) 455-5258 or submit the form below to learn more about our treatment programs in Los Angeles.